• Susie S

The Battery Life Impact on 4G and 5G - What's the difference?


Battery Impact between 4G and 5G – Latest information and updates from the ViserMark Lab




At ViserMark and through our technical lab SmartViser we receive on a regular basis questions about the impact of 5G on device battery performance. Some of the questions we receive are which we will aim to answer below are:


Should I switch to 5G to preserve more battery life?
What is the impact of using 5G on the Battery life?
What is the impact of the network on my device's battery life?
Do different 5G networks have different impacts?
Do device manufacturers optimise their software to improve battery life performance when using 5G
How does 5G impact the battery life of my smartphone?
What is the drain battery percentage by using 5G vs 4G?

This is a very hot topic among end-users but also device manufacturers, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and MVNOs. Since the beginning of the network evolution 2G->3G->4G->5G NR (NSA and SA)*, we see a continued trend of the increased impact these technologies have on the battery life and performance of a mobile or smartphone device.


 

*5G NR (New Radio) is a new radio access technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP for the 5G (fifth generation) mobile network. The non-standalone (NSA) mode of 5G NR refers to an option of 5G NR deployment that depends on an existing 4G LTE network for control functions. The standalone (SA) mode of 5G NR refers to using 5G cells for both signalling and information transfer. It includes the new 5G Packet Core architecture instead of relying on the 4G Evolved Packet Core, to allow the deployment of 5G without the LTE network. At ViserMark lab we have seen assessing the launch of the first 5G NSA (Non-Stand Alone) since it has become commercially available in a number of different countries and networks with a specific focus in France and the UK.

 

Since the launch of the first commercial 5G NSA networks, the following have been noted during our testing:

  • There is an impact on the battery life of about 10% more battery usage on 5G vs 4G

  • Web loading performance and throughput rates / Data were on average 20% better in 5SA than 4G as expected

  • Smartphone manufacturers have been looking for ways to optimise their software that utilises 5G services in the best way to minimise the impact on the battery


The early 5G capable devices once there was 5G NSA coverage available will camp on this all the time. Now almost all device manufacturers have included special optimisation in their software to only use 5G in use cases where 5G will make a difference. As an example, If you are in an area with good 5G NSA coverage and browsing the web then 5G will be utilised as it significantly enhances the user experience. If on the other hand, the device is in an area with radio conditions leading to 5G not bringing a significant advantage in performance to balance higher power drain then the device may decide to stay in 4G although the 5G icon will remain displayed.


This optimisation is implemented in two main setups:


  1. Majority of manufacturers especially Android devices. Software is optimised and the end-user has no control over how the devices select to utilise 5G.

  2. The user has control over how the 5G option is managed. The example below shows how Apple devices manage this option.

Apple offers detailed instructions on 5G icons and Software optimisation.

For more details see here


Screenshot from Apple 12 model in SW 15.4.1


Apple offers detailed instructions on 5G icons and Software optimisation.

For more details see here


Samsung also has special support for 5G and software optimisation.

More detail can be found here



Unlike Apple Samsung and Google Pixel do not only offer the option to switch to 5G without any further control on how 5G is utilised.







Conclusion


Based on the testing we have performed there is an impact on the battery life of about 10% between 4G vs 5G on use cases that benefit from the 5G services. **


The speed of data transfer through exceeds 20% on average meaning 5G is faster than 4G so it's up to users to decide whether this is an acceptable trade-off or not. If the device though offers the 5G battery optimisation option, make sure it is selected for better performance and battery life. As the first 5G SA networks make their appearance in 2022 we will be checking the impact on the device and if there is a substantial difference between 5G NSA vs 5G SA.


 

**Results from mainly France and UK networks

 

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